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Expanding Medicaid would cover more than 13,000 Alabama veterans, their family members

Eddie Burkhalter

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More than 13,000 low-income veterans in Alabama and their adult family members who do not have medical insurance would gain access to medical care if the state were to expand Medicaid. 

Jim Carnes, director of the Montgomery-based nonprofit Alabama Arise, told APR on Friday that it’s a common misconception that veterans in the U.S. have access to health care for life through the U.S. Veterans Administration. 

“But that is just not the case,” Carnes said. 

Health coverage for veterans depends on the type and length of their service, classification and how they were discharged. Thousands of veterans in Alabama have fallen through the cracks, Carnes said. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2017, there were 5,062 veterans in Alabama who earned up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $29,435 for a family of three, who did not have health insurance. 

Additionally, the 7,934 adult family members living in those veterans’ homes also did not have medical insurance.  Of those family members, 4, 703 of them were women. 

“So it’s a problem that extends beyond just the number of veterans,” Carnes said. 

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While active-duty service members and their families do receive health coverage through the VA, many veterans, including many National Guard and Reserve members, leave the service without long term medical care. 

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Many of those veterans and their families don’t make enough to be able to afford private medical insurance, according to Alabama Arise, which means they go without. 

Expanding Medicaid to include families earning up to 138 percent of the poverty level, or $$29,435 for a family of three, would give those veterans access to health care, Carnes said.

Almost half a million low-income U.S. veterans gained access to medical care through the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, between 2013 and 2015, according to a 2017 study by Urban Institute, a Washington D.C.-based think tank. Even so, in 2016, about 5.5 percent of the working age veteran population in the U.S. –  510,000 veterans – were uninsured, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

 

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